Unite to fund Labour to make election 'fair fight'

Len McCluskey: "Let there be no doubt - Unite stands fully behind Labour and Ed Miliband"

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The UK's biggest trade union says it will fund Labour's election campaign, saying it will not let the party fight with "one hand tied behind its back".

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said members faced "the fight" of their lives to oust the "ruinous coalition" of the Conservatives and Lib Dems.

The union has had a series of rows with Labour, but says the party needs money to end "mindless austerity".

The Tories called it the "same old Labour", dominated by unions.

Unite was one of a number of trade unions that were unhappy with reforms to the historic link with the Labour Party.

Start Quote

So let there be no doubt - Unite stands fully behind Labour and Ed Miliband in the increasingly radical agenda he has outlined”

End Quote Len McCluskey Unite

In April this year, Mr McCluskey warned Labour leader Ed Miliband - who introduced the Labour-trade union reforms - that Unite could break its links with Labour if the party lost the next election.

He said he could see the union voting to disaffiliate from a defeated Labour if it ceased to be the voice of working people.

However, in his speech to union members in Liverpool on Monday he said Labour needed to have enough funding to mount a strong campaign against the Conservative in May 2015's general election - arguing it offered the best hope of draining the "swamp of ill treatment", the chance to improve jobs and reverse privatisation of health services.

"The most important challenge Unite will face over the next 11 months is winning next year's general election," he told members.

Now is not the time "to have heated arguments" within the Labour about policy or the party's future, he said.

Ed Miliband Unite's backing for Ed Miliband comes despite the union cutting affiliation fees to the party

"We have a clear and vital choice before us - it's whether we can evict the present ruinous Conservative coalition from office and get a Labour prime minister into Downing Street. There is no third option.

"So let there be no doubt - Unite stands fully behind Labour and Ed Miliband in the increasingly radical agenda he has outlined. It is a people's agenda and this union will be proud to fight alongside Labour to secure it."

Immigration fears

But Mr McCluskey said in return Mr Miliband had to understand that he would only win the trust of the electorate if he rejected "the siren voices of austerity lite" to be on the side of ordinary working men and women.

"We will not let Labour fight for this programme with one hand tied behind its back," he said. "We will be up against the party of the rich, bought and paid for by the rich, with its coffers overflowing with cash from hedge funds, the City and those doing very nicely out of health privatisation.

"Unite will do its bit to make sure that the next election is not financially lop-sided because democracy demands a fair fight."

Mr McCluskey also condemned the Conservatives and UKIP for "exploiting people's fears" over immigration.

"If others are afraid to enter the battlefield with UKIP - we are not. Unite stands ready to take them on for what they are - a right-wing menace to our communities and our society."

He said a Tory win at the next election would threaten trade union freedom.

Strike action

"It's no exaggeration to say that the future of our society, and the future of the labour movement, will be in the balance over the next 12 months," he said.

"Let there be no doubt - we're now facing the fight of our lives."

Unite is Labour's biggest donor but announced plans to cut the amount it pays the party in affiliation fees by half - to £1.5m - following reforms to the Labour-union funding link.

Mr Miliband's proposals for a "one member, one vote" system for leadership elections and an end to the automatic affiliation of union members were approved at a conference of party members earlier this year.

The union has also been involved in rows with the party over allegations of the rigging of a Labour candidate selection by Unite in Falkirk, central Scotland, as well as Labour's support for public sector pay restraint.

Unite is also set to reveal whether its 70,000 members in local government in Wales, England and Northern Ireland have voted to take industrial action over pay -

Members of several major unions - including council workers, school support staff and teachers - have already voted to strike on 10 July.

More than a million public sector workers could walk out as part of a protest over government policy on cutting public sector costs and jobs.

Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps said: "Ed Miliband promised to wean himself off these union bosses, but he has been too weak to deliver.

"Frankly, it's the same old Labour - dominated by unions who want more spending, more borrowing and more taxes: all things that would crush British business and cost jobs."

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  72.  
    09:41: Breaking News Mark Lowen BBC News, Athens

    It took just an hour of talks between two party leaders for the coalition to be formed. Greece's new government will comprise the leftists Syriza and a rightwing party, Independent Greeks, also fiercely anti-bailout but far more hardline on other policies such as immigration. Alexis Tsipras will see the President later today and be asked to to form a government. He will then argue he has the democratic mandate to revoke the budget cuts and persuade Europe to write off a portion of Greek debt. It'll meet a cool reception from Brussels and Berlin. Tough negotiations lie ahead to find a compromise that prevents Greece from defaulting on its debt: something that could threaten the country's place in the Euro.

     
  73.  
    09:36: Lord Mandelson warning
    Lord Mandelson

    Labour peer Lord Mandelson is warning today that his party must plan properly for a possible coalition with the Liberal Democrats. He tells the Guardian that while an outright victory is still possible, it is not defeatism to consider the consequences of a failure to win a majority.

     
  74.  
    09:33: Your comments: Fracking

    An influential committee of MPs has called for a moratorium on fracking on the grounds that it could derail efforts to tackle climate change. Paul writes: This is absolutely correct. We need to do the right thing out of principle. The only justification for fracking is greed and short term gain. Tim comments: This group of MPs is called influential. Influential but ignorant would be closer to the mark and that's a scary combination.

    Add your views via the comments module on our news story.

     
  75.  
    09:26: NHS concerns Hugh Pym Health editor

    Looking further ahead - the really big question for all parties is how they will fund the NHS over the next five years, particularly at a time, seemingly, of continued austerity. There's also an increasing and aging population, and patients are looking for better access to new drugs.

     
  76.  
    09:21: Questions for Nick
    Nick Robinson

    Are politicians delivering what you want? The BBC's Nick Robinson will be holding a Facebook Q&A about democracy - linked to his current Radio 4 series - at 13:30 GMT.

     
  77.  
    09:17: Campaign issues

    With 101 days to go the BBC has been finding out what issue most concerns you ahead of the election. The NHS emerged as the most important issue for those surveyed, ahead of the economy and immigration.

    Stats
     
  78.  
    09:15: Digital democracy
    House of Parliament

    We have been reporting on the launch of the Speaker's Commission on Digital Democracy this morning. In addition to encouraging online voting and more public participation in debates, one of its five objectives is to "ensure that everyone can understand" what the House of Commons does by 2020. As part of this, it says parliamentary language and procedures should be "simplified".

     
  79.  
    09:10: Hoax call to No 10
    Priti Patel

    Speaking to the BBC about the hoax call made to David Cameron, Treasury minister Priti Patel says "the most important thing right now is that no sensitive information was disclosed". She also stresses there will be a "full investigation" into what happened.

     
  80.  
    09:08: 100 constituencies Matthew Price BBC News
    Colin

    If Conservatives are to see off a double challenge from both UKIP and Labour in Thurrock they'll need core voters like Colin the car dealer to stick with them. He says he wants the current economic policy to continue so he does want David Cameron back in.

    (There is more on the BBC Today programme's 100 constituencies feature at 0755)

     
  81.  
    09:00: Archive treat 100: Robin Day v George Brown Alex Hunt Politics editor, BBC News Online

    Each day from now until 7 May we'll be bringing you a classic election clip from the BBC archives. We've already selected a fair few but do feel free to suggest some via email at politics@bbc.co.uk or via Twitter @bbcpolitics. Here's the first one -

    Robin Day interviewing George Brown

    If you think it all used to be honey and roses for political interviewees here's an election night clip from 1964 as BBC host Robin Day gets on the wrong side of the deputy leader of the Labour Party, George Brown, when quizzing him on the potential nationalisation of the steel industry.

     
  82.  
    08:56: Osborne full interview BBC Radio 4 Today

    The full BBC interview with Chancellor George Osborne is now online.

    Reacting to the anti-austerity party Syriza's win in the Greek elections, Mr Osborne told Today: "If your economy has shrunk you are going to look for other answers...the things the new government has promised, it's going to be very difficult to deliver."

    On Europe he added: "The institutions of the Eurozone are not working well enough for the people of Europe...people get tired of economic failure and rising unemployment."

     
  83.  
    BBC Politics

    tweets: The 2015 general election will be unlike any other http://bbc.in/1D8M48K

     
  84.  
    08:49: Fracking concerns BBC News Channel

    Joan Walley, chairwoman of the Commons Environmental Audit Committee, has told the BBC that they want the move to shale gas to be put on hold because of environmental and safety concerns. You can read more about their report here.

    Joan Walley
     
  85.  
    @robinbrant Robin Brant, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: It's back in action, up and running, primed for daily updates. The @BBCPolitics elex countdownerer @ChrisMasonBBC

    White board
     
  86.  
    Imelda Flattery BBC News

    tweets: Alexis Tsipras expected to speak to gathered journalists shortly. #Greece

    Media scrum
     
  87.  
    08:29: Greek election fallout

    More from the BBC's interview with Yanis Varoufakis, an economist who stood for Greece's Syriza party in the elections. He says a Greek exit from the eurozone is "not on the cards", and the party is not going to go to Brussels "in a confrontational style".

     
  88.  
    BBC Radio 4 Today

    tweets: 'We will take a plan to the #eurozone to minimise this Greek debacle' #Syriza candidate Yanis Varoufakis #R4today

     
  89.  
    08:22: New role for Lord Smith
    Lord Smith

    Lord Smith of Kelvin is to take on another high-profile role, after agreeing to chair of one of Scotland's largest regeneration projects. Lord Smith, who chaired the Smith Commission on Scottish devolution, will lead Clyde Gateway on delivering the post-2014 Commonwealth Games legacy. The work focuses on regenerating Glasgow's east end. Lord Smith was chairman of the Commonwealth Games organising committee and has a number of other top roles. They include chairing Forth Ports and the Green Investment Bank. He will take up his new unpaid role as chairman of Clyde Gateway next month

     
  90.  
    08:18: Hoax call to No 10 Norman Smith BBC Assistant Political Editor

    No 10 stress the PM's phone number was not given out to the hoaxer. However he was put through to the PM by the switchboard.

     
  91.  
    @BBCGen2015 BBC Generation 2015

    tweets: DEADLINE: Just 1 week for 18-24s to sign up to @BBCGen2015 to take part in BBC Election progs

     
  92.  
    @bbcnickrobinson Nick Robinson, BBC Political Editor

    tweets: The Speaker wants you to be able to join in MPs debates & vote online. Good idea? Join in my Q&A on F'book at 1.30 (read more about the online voting plans)

     
  93.  
    08:10: 100 constituencies
    Working men's club

    This will help you put a face to some of the voices in Matthew Price's pre-election package from a working men's club in Tilbury, Thurrock (see 0755). Clearly this was pre-recorded, they weren't drinking on Monday morning.

     
  94.  
    08:05: Hoax call to No 10 BBC Radio 5 live

    The Surveillance Camera Commissioner for England and Wales Tony Porter has told 5 Live Breakfast that the hoax calls to GCHQ and Downing Street were a "concern" and it "doesn't reassure the public and the community". He also said "there'll be a lot of work to eradicate [it]".

     
  95.  
    Andy Burnham Shadow health secretary

    tweets: Warning from @nhsconfed & @LGAcomms about crisis in NHS & care. Labour's 10 year-plan, out tomorrow, offers solution> http://bit.ly/1wxprWw

     
  96.  
    @RobbieGibb

    tweets: On today's #bbcdp - @DouglasCarswell (UKIP), @spelmanc (Con), Andy Slaughter (Lab) and @MartinChelt (Lib Dem)

     
  97.  
    07:55: 100 constituencies BBC Radio 4 Today

    The BBC's Matthew Price has been at a working men's club in Tilbury, Thurrock as part of the Today programme's tour of 100 constituencies in the run-up to the general election. One voter says the Tories have "sold England off, never vote for them" but won't vote UKIP as they are too far "anti-immigration". At a nearby slimming club, one woman says she is undecided and may not vote for the party her family has traditionally supported: "You've got so many different parties, at the end of the day you have to weigh up what is right for you".

     
  98.  
    07:51: Greece dominates papers
    Telegraph/Times front pages

    Many of today's newspapers concentrate on the fallout from the dramatic general election in Greece - won by the left-wing anti-austerity Syriza party. The BBC's paper review gives a roundup of reports.

     
  99.  
    07:44: Hoax caller to No 10 Norman Smith BBC Assistant Political Editor

    Incredible as it may seem the prankster managed to obtain mobile numbers for both the head of the GCHQ surveillance centre and the prime minister by bluffing his way past both sets of switchboards. Having been put through to the GCHQ boss Robert Hannigan, he then rang the Sun newspaper to boast of his exploits. According to The Sun he told them "he'd made monkeys" out of GCHQ despite being high on drink and drugs. Not satisfied with all that, the hoaxer then succeeded in getting put through to the prime minister. No 10 say Mr Cameron realised "within a matter of seconds" it was a hoax call and put the phone down. They also say no sensitive information was disclosed - and that they have no reason to believe the caller was anything other than a prankster. Nevertheless in an era of heightened terror alert and anxious political debate over increased surveillance - it would suggest simple human error can be a greater vulnerability.

     
  100.  
    07:42: Greek election fallout

    More from Chancellor George Osborne on the Greek election result: "Ultimately if you take at face value all the things that the new Greek government has promised - including big increases in public expenditure - you know, I think that is going to be very difficult to deliver, and incompatible with what the Eurozone currently demands of its members. But I hope that both sides now act responsibly."

     

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